Innovation follows a pattern. If you know the pattern it can help you identify innovation occurring in your own company, it can also help you manage an innovate project. First of all, you identify the different phases of innovation and have knowledge on how to respond to difficult situations. It will also set your expectations correctly in regard to starting and running an innovative product development program.
The ideas behind the pattern of innovation are found in academic research published by Andrew Van de Ven in The Innovation Journey. Through long running study of numerous innovative product development cycles, Van de Ven and team have amassed a great deal of knowledge around how innovation works and how to manage it.
I recently gave a talk on the pattern of innovation at Ricon2012. You can see the full video here:
I’m reading Harvard Business Review again after taking a few years hiatus after finishing an MBA. There’s an excellent article in the Nov 2012 issue about innovation and work and having an additional operating system to manage innovation (ACCELERATE!, by John Kotter). This got me thinking about how a company should act more like a Cloud.
The notion in Accelerate! is that to innovate a company needs a second operating system running along side the normal hierarchical structure. This second operating system is a network of company appointed change agents along with volunteers that work for the cause. Essentially it allows workers trapped in their box of a hierarchy to work on innovative projects in their “spare” time. The networks spin up as need and as quickly dissipate back into the organization.
To me this sounds essentially like the same reasons Cloud computing has become so popular. Instead of having compute units (workers) with additional cycles available languishing within a hierarchy (datacenter), we build a network that can tap into those units. When we need to use them we throw a topic onto to the queue and see which compute unit picks up the work (master/worker).
This also greatly mirrors the Agile concept of self-organizing teams. The network teams have no hierarchical leader and therefore must determine how to do the work amongst themselves. This gives them both the power to decide and the mandate to implement their decisions at the same time.
If a company acted more like a Cloud than a hierarchy, who knows what it could do.